How did you get involved with The First Tee?
BE: I started with The First Tee Program approximately 10 years ago. Ron Parish asked a friend of mine if he would be interested in becoming a First Tee Coach. He agreed, so he went to his first class. I was curious about the program, so I joined my friend to that first class as well and observed. I recall thinking “gosh, this is great, I really like this!” The week after that first class, I asked Ron Parish I could do it as well, he said “sure” and connected me with a coach named Joel Dolowich. I attended one of his classes and started working with him. Ever since that time and over the last 10 years I have delivered all the levels, with the exception of Ace. I like this program because it is fulfilling for me, I enjoy giving back to the community and helping the community in some way. It helps my own golf game too because we have to go back to basics, which is what we are teaching the kids.
What have First Tee participants taught YOU?
BE: Most importantly they have taught me to laugh more and use more imagination. Something I have observed and learned are the similarities between working with an older population and young people. I retired from the Veterans Administration after 35 years providing support to veterans. Since working with The First Tee I have discovered that the wants and needs of both populations, young and old are just about the same. Another important observation is the need to help all the individuals feel that they are in a safe environment.
What would you tell a parent who was thinking of enrolling their junior into a class at The First Tee?
BE: Well, when I do that I introduce them to the two aspects of The First Tee Program: The golf skill side and the character value side. It helps letting them know about our Nine Core Values and how we try to integrate them into our lesson each week. Most times, I would also ask them if they would like to come out and observe the class with their junior to see if they like the class.
What is the best thing about being a coach?
BE: There are many benefits to being a coach; one is that it adds purpose to my life knowing that the Core Values I teach may be used by the juniors for the rest of their lives. Working with the participants also allows me to utilize and share with them many of the golf and interpersonal skills I have learned throughout my life.
What is a hobby or something you do that might surprise other coaches or The First Tee participants?
BE: I don’t know that it would necessarily surprise other people, but other interests that I have are fishing and cooking. I enjoy fishing because I love the prospect of sitting at the lake as the sun rises while having a cup of coffee; it’s just as beautiful as it is relaxing. I mostly fish at different lakes, up in the mountains with the forest nearby, it’s wonderful.
I also enjoy cooking; specifically I enjoy making all kinds of soups. I don’t really have a favorite soup as I experiment a lot, but more often than not, I will cook a varied-style vegetable soup. I also enjoy cooking a complete meal in either just one pot or skillet; makes it challenging, and it makes it easier to clean up [laughs]
How would your players describe you as a coach?
BE: I would hope the first comment the participants would say is “we have fun”; that Coach Byron is always positive and they are improving their golf skills along with learning life skills they can use both on and off the golf course.
What is your favorite golf club in your bag and why?
BE: My favorite club is probably my putter. I have been very successful with my putter and it has saved me from a couple of bad shots after executing a good putt. [laughs]
On the other hand, I don’t think I have a club that I do not like. I like them all; but if I see there’s a particular club I’m not that successful with, I will focus on practicing with that club a little bit more so I can increase my success with it.
What is one strategy you use to keep participants engaged?
BE: When discussing Life Skills I do not direct my questions to those individuals that will always give the correct answer. I direct my questions to everyone in class, that way they never know who I will call on for an answer. To keep the juniors engaged in the golf activity I always try and have 3 to 4 different activities which keeps them from feeling bored or not challenged enough. I always start class with a lesson plan but I still believe in allowing for flexibility. If I see the participants are becoming disinterested I will change or adjust the direction of the golf activity.
What is your favorite game or activity to implement during class?
BE: I like all of the games, but probably games around chipping and putting. For example, tic-tac-toe putting, or chipping games to various targets.
Note: Tic-Tac-Toe putting is a fun putting game where juniors find a partner and attempt to putt their golf ball towards one of the squares in a tic-tac-toe grid. This is a great game for juniors to practice distance control (how hard or soft they hit their golf ball,) as well as allowing them to improve their aim.
Coach Byron currently coaches the Birdie and Eagle levels at Lone Tree Golf Course.
Thank you Coach Byron!